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Moses holding ten commandments
Statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments at The New Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. Photo credit: Pray It No Photography / Flickr, CC-BY 2.0

Louisiana’s governor signed a blatantly unconstitutional law this week requiring the state’s schools to display the Ten Commandments. But will a Supreme Court stacked with zealots see it that way?

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If you tried to come up with a piece of legislation that is definitely unconstitutional, it would be difficult to top a new Louisiana law that mandates the display of the Ten Commandments in the classrooms of the state’s publicly funded schools.

For example, the “Make Slavery Great Again Act,” or the “Mandatory Housing of Troops in Private Homes Act,” or the “Take Away a Woman’s Right to Vote Act” would only be equally unconstitutional.

While those three are hypothetical, Louisiana’s new law is, unfortunately, very real… and it should be seen as a testament to just how ideologically tainted the right-wing majority on the Supreme Court is.

Normally, even the most radical state government wouldn’t bother passing such legislation because it would be challenged immediately (as this one will) and then get laughed out of any court as a blatant violation of the separation of church and state.

Even if schools were to display the Ten Commandments in Arabic, it would still be unconstitutional. Of course, that wouldn’t be allowed because the underlying bill also mandates how the commandments have to be exhibited… just so clever educators don’t get around the requirement by using a tiny font or placing a poster underneath the teacher’s desk.

“The nature of the display shall be determined by each governing authority with a minimum requirement that the Ten Commandments shall be displayed on a poster or framed document that is at least eleven inches by fourteen inches,” the new law states. “The text of the Ten Commandments shall be the central focus of the poster or framed document and shall be printed in a large, easily readable font.”

However, seeing how the current Supreme Court is now packed with religious conservatives, Gov. Jeff Landry (R) might have figured that this legislation has a chance.  

He certainly sounded like it during the signing ceremony.

“If you want to respect the rule of law, you’ve got to start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses,” Landry said.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that there actually was a Moses, which is quite a stretch.

However, if he had been a real person, scholars guesstimate that he might have lived 3,500-3,700 years ago… or perhaps much more recently (they really don’t have a clue).

But let’s go with the earliest figure and pretend that the absence of historical documents mentioning Moses or the exodus from Egypt doesn’t disprove that he talked to a burning bush, parted the Red Sea, and was given a bunch of rules from God.

That still wouldn’t make him the “original lawgiver” as Landry claimed.

Instead, the first actually documented laws were composed more than 100 years earlier and preserved in the Code of Hammurabi, which was an actual legal text the existence of which is proven by ample physical evidence.

So, if Landry really was interested in displaying the earliest laws (and not engaging in some religious stunt), then he just needs to go here.

Obviously, that’s not what this is about.

Instead, it is about catering to religious conservatives and testing just how far this Supreme Court will go to do so.

Otherwise, the money spent on these posters would be better invested in history lessons because it sounds as though even the governor has some deficiencies in that area.

Author

  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a senior editor for Politics and director of the Mentor Apprentice Program at WhoWhatWhy. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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